Shop on Small Business Saturday

shop-local-9It seems impossible that Small Business Saturday is nearly here.  Waukegan Main Street has been working with the downtown merchants to make sure that November 29th, the fifth annual celebration of small businesses,  will take place again this year.

Check out what been planned so far – we are adding participating businesses all the time – what’s going on and when their doors open.  And remember, out of $1.00 spent at a local, neighborhood merchant, 68 cents returns to the community.

Shop local and enjoy!

AmazonSmile, Main Street and You

AmazonSmile is a program where Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization selected by their customers – and Waukegan Main Street is one of those charitable organizations!  To participate as a shopper and supporter, click the “Get Started” button below or go to, sign in to your Amazon account … and voila!  That’s all it takes!  You should see a “Supporting: Waukegan Main Street” above your name at the very top of the page.

Bookmark the link to AmazonSmile and use it every time you make an Amazon purchase. Thank you for supporting Waukegan Main Street.

Happy shopping!

Waukegan Main Street

New Leaders at Waukegan Main Street


WAUKEGAN, IL  September 29, 2014 — A new Strategic Plan, new Officers and new Board members were the highlights of Waukegan Main Street’s Annual Meeting.  The event provides Waukegan Main Street members the opportunity to vote on leadership for the downtown organization as well as network with business leaders, active citizens and volunteers.

Business leaders and citizens at WMS Annual Meeting.

Retaining their positions as President and Secretary respectively were Jamie O’Meara and Dulce “Candy” Ortiz.  Seated as Vice President is John Quinn, of the law firm Churchill, Quinn, Richtman & Hamilton, Ltd. in Grayslake, and as Treasurer is Megan McKenna de Mejia, Executive Director of Mano a Mano in Round Lake.  “After the busy and productive year we’ve had, it’s wonderful to have consistency of two officers staying for another term,” said Jane Ferry, Executive Director of Waukegan Main Street.  “And we look forward to the creative ideas and direction from the new officers as well.”  All four officers live in Waukegan.

Joining the Board as new members are Tamika Jones and Karen Nystrom.  Jones is a Human Resources professional at Baxter Healthcare, specializing in early talent programs. She grew up in Waukegan’s Third Ward and is a graduate of Waukegan High School and Illinois State University. She recently moved back to the area and began volunteering with Waukegan Main Street in 2013, becoming Promotions Committee Chair shortly thereafter. Nystrom was raised in the north suburbs and serves as the director of advocacy for the Financial Planning Association, a national membership organization for financial planning professionals with 23,000 members and 93 chapters.  She has 15 years of experience in both the 501c3 and 501c6 non-profit areas and in state government legislative work.

MeganMcKenna de Mejia was the featured speaker at the event, giving the highlights of Waukegan Main Street’s Strategic Plan 2015 – 2018.  “Megan took the lead on completing our Strategic Plan which had been in the works for two years.  Through those efforts, we reworked our Mission and Vision statements to more accurately reflect our concentration and included easy-to-understand bullet points as our Core Values,” said Ferry.  The Strategic Plan positions Waukegan Main Street to be the lead convener and champion of the downtown and lakefront, building on existing assets through coalition-based action and community engagement, while balancing the past and the future.  Also presenting were Board President Jamie O’Meara, Membership Chair Sandy Petroshius and Executive Director Jane Ferry giving a year in review.

“Over the next month or so, we will have meetings to engage – and re-engage – people of action throughout the community,” Ferry said. “We have inspired leadership and we look forward to the positive effects we can have when we all work together.”  The meeting was held at the Waukegan Yacht Club.

Photos of the Annual Meeting were taken by Ali Albakri and can be found here.

Monarch Festival Flies High

20140907_125606Congratulations to the Waukegan Public Library for another successful Monarch Festival.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table, whether that was talk, create a butterfly or pick up information.  We had a great time challenging the kids’ creativity and watching their concentration, especially the younger ones.  We also handed out over 200 Dining Guides and “Things to Do” calendars of events.

20140907_131139The weather was perfect and, once again, the Library arranged interesting activities and presentations, including a rock climbing wall, traditional Mexican folk dance and BMX Pro Biker Matt Wilhelm.  Wilhelm was a wonderful motivational speaker, especially to kids about working toward a goal.  The tricks he did, such as joining over people (including the Library’s Executive Director Richard Lee) were unmatched as well. If you have the opportunity to see him, do.

20140907_150100There were a number of other booths and food vendors.  The Lake County Bike Project held raffles, giving away eight bikes during the event.  We look forward to the Lake County Bike Project holding one or more technical training events to introduce weekend bikers to basic maintenance.

The Chicago Botanic Gardens Youth Farm were selling their fresh vegetables and we saw a number of people walking around with full bags.

20140907_133529Once again, congratulations to the Library for all their efforts in putting on a fun, successful event in downtown Waukegan.

Keeping Waukegan Beach Beautiful

Waukegan Main Street joined a long list of volunteers and volunteer organizations who are keeping our beautiful Waukegan Municipal Beach beautiful.  With the hard work every weekday of Eco-Ambassadors and individuals hired through a DNR Grant awarded to the Waukegan Park District, the weekend clean-up efforts take less than two hours.

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Volunteers Paul Ferry, Sandy Petroshius and Nick Nicketakis (left to right) are ready to the clean the beach!

Our group on Saturday was small, but efficient.  Two Board members, Sandy Petroshius and Nick Nicketakis, joined Michael May, Paul Ferry and a high schooler putting in two hours of community service.  The group “divided and conquered” the beach, ending up with only two mostly full liner bags of trash.  This is a vast improvement from the last two years of volunteer clean up where often each individual ended up with a full bag.  Congratulations to Friends of Waukegan Beach and alderman Lisa May for coordinating the volunteer efforts!

Waukegan Main Street has volunteered for two more Saturdays – August 30th and September 6th.  If you would like to join us, call the office at (847) 623-6650.  Many hands make light the work.

Type Rider II Rolls into Bowen Park

New Little Free Library by Jack Benny Center for the Arts

Two poets rode 1,400 miles on a tandem bicycle through America’s heartland, writing free poems & building Little Free Libraries. How cool is that? Really cool, when a brand new Little Free Libraries is located outside the Jack Benny Center at Bowen Park!

Maya Stein and Amy Tingle, poets who rode a tandem bicycle and towed two typewriters 1,400 miles from Boulder, Colorado to Beloit, Wisconsin, swung by Bowen Park to open the latest Little Free Library, write poems from a word given to them, share their stories, and open up the Tiny Traveling Library.  (Feel free to contribute to the Tiny Traveling Library.)

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A small part of the Tiny Traveling Library

Stein came to Waukegan two years ago after a 40-day, 1,200-mile trip from Amherst, Massachusetts to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During that trip, she towed her typewriter and invited people at each stop to contribute to a collaborative collection of writing.  According to their Kickstarter page, “Her journey was documented by several publications, including The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Rails-to-Trails Magazine, and The Writer. ”

Currently 11,000 US towns do not have public libraries and this poetic pair is out to change that by building new libraries in communities they visit.   Waukegan is lucky enough to have an award-winning library, so that is not an issue.  The issue is, many parents and family members wait for the children/siblings who are taking lessons at Jack Benny Center and they often are looking for something to do.  The Little Free Library has books for adults and kids to read while they wait, or take with them.  Claudia Freeman, Superintendent of Cultural Arts for the Waukegan Park District put out a call to fill the new Little Free Library and, as of yesterday afternoon, had a box and a few bags of books.  Freeman promised to put out the call when more books are needed.

Tandem Poetry
Writing poems based on the word “Hawaii”

Finally, the poets also created personalized poetry “for the people we meet, a keepsake of our trip and – we hope – an inspiration for others to tap into their own creativity.” They asked for a word, individually typed poems based on that word, read the poems aloud, and took a photo of the completed works for a final book about the project.  

Per Stein, “Type Rider II: The Tandem Poetry Tour is about creativity, collaboration, and community. We hope to promote literacy and the love of reading for children and adults everywhere.  And by writing poems for the people we meet along the way, we hope to spark the spirit of connection through creativity and inspire young writers to keep pursuing their passion.”

Tiny Traveling Library2

Strolling Along at Wine and Art Stroll

was4Our last big event of the summer was Saturday July 26th in Downtown Waukegan! Our Promotions Committee and staff worked diligently to secure participating locations, volunteers , a band to perform at the College of Lake County Lakeshore Campus Courtyard on Genesee and Madison, and sponsors.  Many thanks to North Shore Gas, Vista Health System and Consumers Credit Union for sponsoring our seventh annual Wine and Art Stroll.

Nearly 250 people enjoyed the warm summer evening and walking to and through the galleries, shops and restaurants.  “What a nice success, topping off a month of events in our downtown,” said Jane Ferry, Executive Director of Waukegan Main Street. “We had different crowds for each event, although it was fun to see the familiar faces from one event to the next. We’ve also been very lucky with the weather from fireworks on the 4th through to Wine and Art Stroll on the 26th.”was3

In addition to showcasing artwork by dozens of local artists, the festival this year took on new dimensions with an exciting performance by an up-and-coming Afro-Latin musical group plus al fresco dining. Visitors equipped with souvenir wine glasses strolled through the Waukegan Arts & Entertainment District, and sampled a variety of wines at more than 20 participating specialty shops, galleries and restaurants including new businesses. As they strolled, art aficionados met featured artists, perused popup art exhibits, enjoedy live music and purchased unique treasures to take home.

was1“Wine & Art Stroll brings an eclectic crowd to downtown Waukegan—from college students to retirees, people who treasure traditional art and those who appreciate the avant garde,” said Ferry. “Whether people were looking for a date night or a girls’ night out, they really enjoyed getting to know the artists and our downtown merchants in a relaxed way.”

Not to be missed was the dynamic concert by CALJE (Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble) in the College of Lake County courtyard. The ensemble blends Afro-Cuban jazz, traditional Cuban rhythms, Jamaican reggae, Spanish flamenco and more with a modern jazz flair. CALJE’s critically acclaimed debut album, “Blueprints,” received 3½ stars from Downbeat Magazine.20140726_184406

“We already have ideas to make next year even more enticing!”

Criterium Sped Through Downtown

20140718_153251_resizedDid you come downtown on Friday July 18th? No?  You missed first-of-its-kind-in-Waukegan  fast-paced, high energy event. Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Cycling Series kicked off an eight city tour in the Chicagoland area with the inaugural Vista Health System Waukegan Criterium.  Prairie State hit the streets early and the racers kept up the pace until dusk.  The Criterium, a bike race held on a short course usually less than one mile, was hosted by City of Waukegan Chamber of Commerce and Waukegan Main Street with the start/finish line and stage right on Genesee Street.

20140717_201640_resizedRacers and volunteers registered at the Genesee Theatre starting at 8:30am. Nine different race categories entertained spectators from 10:50am, with the start of Mens Cat 5 (amateur) race, through to the Kids’ Race then onto the Men’s Professionals race which ended shortly after 8pm.  Race length varied for the different levels and were determined by total time and laps, with remaining laps calculated as the race progresses.  One of the professional women racers said their speed tops 28 miles per hour and that the professional men can top 40 mph.  We timed one lap and it was less than one minute in the professional races.

20140718_153546_resizedWe are grateful that a number of businesses sponsored the race, including North Shore Printers, a family-owned business that has been in the downtown area for over 80 years. On a side note, North Shore Printers and the Callahan Family are proud to be supporters of and partners with World Bicycle Relief for the past five years.

Over 150 volunteers filled a variety of positions around the course – Genesee Street to Clayton to Sheridan to Water and back to Genesee – to ensure the safety of the cyclists, cars and pedestrians.  Many were flaggers, indicating that the pace car and racers would be passing their location and letting people know it was not safe to cross streets.  Members of Citizens Police Academy and cadets from Waukegan High School JROTC joined volunteers from the Chamber and Main Street.  We cannot thank all the volunteers enough.

2014-07-18 23.15.26_resizedIn addition to the race, Parking D was the site of a Block Party. Food vendors, non-profits and merchants were available for the crowd and local band, Angry Squirrels, provided music starting at 7pm.  Luckily the weather was wonderful and a lot of people ate dinner at the Block Party, taking advantage of the great view of one of the big ‘turns’.

If you did not have the opportunity to enjoy the Criterium or Block Party this year, we hope to host it again next year.  And even if you don’t think you’d like watching bike racing, give it a try … it is awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

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Vista Health System Waukegan Criterium Hits the Streets Friday!

2443148_origThe inaugural Vista Health System Waukegan Criterium hits the streets of downtown Waukegan Friday, July 18th with multiple amateur bicycle racing categories followed by professional men’s and women’s racing and a popular kids’ race in the early evening.  The pace car leading the racers on the course will be provided by Classic Scion of Waukegan. Vista Health System is both the title sponsor and health care partner for the event.

“The Criterium and Block Party are a great way for the City to bring together residents, businesses, visitors and the bicycle racing community in a summer festival setting,” said Ron Oesterlein, Executive Director of City of Waukegan Chamber of Commerce.
The Criterium is a short course bike race with the planned route of Genesee Street north to Clayton Street, east to Sheridan Road, south to Water Street and back north on Genesee.  Men’s  and women’s categories ranging from amateur and professional to masters will take place all day, from 10:50am to 8:00pm. One afternoon highlight will be informal children’s races that Oesterlein called “almost the best part of the whole event,” with features like 4- and 5-year-olds doing a 200-yard sprint and 10- and 11-year-olds completing a single circuit.

The Downtown Summer Block Party will take place at the southwest corner of Sheridan Road and Clayton Street from 3:00pm to 11:00pm. “The Block Party is located inside the race course so people can easily watch the fast-paced race while enjoying the festivities,” said Jane Ferry, Executive Director of Waukegan Main Street.  “The Block Party will have family-friendly activities, food, and vendors, with local band, Angry Squirrels, taking the stage at 7:00pm.”

All related fun aside organizers say the big draw will be the sight of professional athletes whipping through the downtown area at speeds that would be illegal for a four-wheeled vehicle.

“It’s very explosive, very exciting,” Oesterlein said. “People are always amazed when they come and watch it for the first time. It’s a really high-energy experience, and really one of the most spectator-friendly sports there is, partly because the racers keep coming by every minute.”

For more information on the Vista Health System Waukegan Criterium, visit

Media Contact: Ron Oesterlein, (847) 623-6800,

Related links:,,

Eye Menagerie at ArtWauk

DSCN0982-001“Eye Menagerie”, a photographic art show by Nicole Romany, will open at Sidecar Studios on Saturday, June 21, 2014. The opening reception will be from 5-9 PM. Sidecar Studios is one of the new galleries at the historic Karcher Lofts, 405 Washington Street, Waukegan. Nicole is the featured artist at Sidecar for this month’s ArtWauk in downtown Waukegan.

Nicole Romany has a unique perspective on her approach to photography. “ I see every picture as a forgotten object.  It is something that we may see every day but because we are so accustomed to it, we take it for granted, thus it becomes ‘forgotten’. My work is a way to rediscover the world around us.”

Nicole’s work will be on exhibit at Sidecar Studios until July 11th.

Check out more ArtWauk information here!  And check out the show’s coverage in the Lake County News-Sun here!.